Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire

by Steve Reynolds Rating:9 Release Date:2015-03-23

Lightning Bolt have never been anything but purveyors of soaring, sonically-charged soundscapes.  In the band’s 20 year history, they have always recorded their own material and are indelibly dyed in the ethos of the very words Do It Yourself. 

However, after realising that the songs for this album sounded the same as the last, they decided to record with a proper label and, more importantly, in a proper studio. This is their first release in five years and their hiatus has been put to good use, learning to craft, hone and approach the songs with a new vigour while licking their lips at having exposure to some high-end knob-twiddling equipment. 

During the years of their bellicose and highly sought after live appearances. where they would set up in the middle of the crowd, they haven’t wilted at all. They firmly stick to their guns, continually challenging our ears and punishing us profusely while refusing to let age and experiences quell their lust to push themselves even further.

For the uninitiated, Lightning Bolt is a two-piece. Before your heart sags, they are not in the vein of those so-called 'saviours of rock’, Royal Blood. Brian Chippendale plays drums, wears a gimp mask with a contact mic strapped to the inside of it and mainly shouts, barks and screams incoherent tirades of, quite frankly, garbage. His number two is Brian Gibson, who complete with his bass and more pedals than Halfords, makes an almighty racket by shaking and wringing every last drop of dissonance he can find.

Fantasy Empire has a total of nine tracks. Its bull-in-a-china-shop approach begins with the seething ‘The Metal East’. Gibson kicks off with a riff straight from a thrash album. Chippendale follows suit with his belligerent drumming and they hit their stride very quickly. 

The trademark noise and squalls are all here. The cleaner production adds punch but maintains the band's strident, almost no-wave, nihilistic feel.

‘Over the River and Through the Woods’ is covered in molten-hot riffs and power-chords.  Chippendale drums like a man on speed and Gibson, it seems, has been reading The Black Sabbath School of Power-Chords book, as the duo rip through a jam of six-minutes-plus.

For a lot of ears, this album might be deemed too atonal, complicated by noise and filthy percussion, but when you look behind such tracks as ‘Horsepower’, the melody shines through in abundance and, accompanied by a wash of fuzz and wah-wah pedal, blows away the lie that the band has no musical diversity.

‘Mythmaster’ is grizzly and doom-laden. Well, for 90 seconds they con us into thinking that before the jet-heeled drums crash in. They then drop back out and in again before a psychedelic shot of Hendrix guitar pummels Chippendale’s kit to within an inch of his life. It’s a breathless track containing all the elements of what Lightning Bolt do best: it's sharp, direct, like two blokes engrossed in their idiosyncratic sounds and less-than-subtle nuances.

The last two songs are packed with malevolent muscle. The Jesus Lizard-like ‘Dream Genie’ followed by ‘Snow White (& the 7 Dwarves Fans)’. With its intolerable lack of song-structure, it's an 11-and-a-half-minute sortie which leaves you punch-drunk and battered.

A new approach to recording and an accommodating record label hasn’t dampened or quashed Lightning Bolt’s resolve or bullish charm. If anything, it’s galvanised and rejuvenated them. With Fantasy Empire, it has enabled them to make another great record to add to their already impressive back-catalogue.

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